Czech violinist wins Michael Hill competition

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Michael Hill International Violin Competition
Auckland Town Hall
Auckland Philharmonia
June 11th

The twenty three year old Czech violinist Josef Spacek was declared the winner of this years Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

He was whittled down from the original 18 rising stars of the music world who competed in the prestigious contest, with the first two rounds in Queenstown and third round held earlier in the week.

Josef Spacek playing Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No 2 narrowly headed off Yoo Jin Jang, the audience favourite, who played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.

He gave an intense and personal account of the Prokofiev work which expresses the composers anguish over the state of Soviet Russia in the 1930’s as well as his own angst at living there.

The work which is threaded through with hints of his ballet music Romeo and Juliet was played with assurance and sensitivity, the violinist engaging well with the orchestra.

Yoo Jin Jang's playing of the Tchaikovsky was a stunning display her free flowing technique. She was animated and polished, showing a real empathy with the music.

The 18 semi-finalists were aged between 18 to 28 and performed demanding programmes of solo and piano-accompanied works. They performed live before a panel of international judges including Shmuel Ashkenasi (Israel), Pamela Frank (USA), Philippe Graffin (France), Dong Suk Kang (Korea), Oleh Krysa (Ukraine/USA), Wilma Smith (NZ/Australia) and Radoslaw Szulc (Poland/Germany).

Josef Spacek received a cheque of NZ$40,000, as well as the opportunity of a recording with classical music label, Naxos, and a winner’s tour in 2010. Second prize winner Yoo Jin Jang of Korea received $10,000 from ANZ Bank and the third place getter Danbi Um of Korea received $5000.

Yoo Jin Jang also received $2,000 for her performance of New Zealand composer Gareth Farr’s, specially-commissioned work.

In a first for the competition, the audience last night was able to text vote for The Michael Hill Audience Prize through text voting. This was also won by Yoo Jin Jang.

Sarah Buchan also won the prize of a two-year loan of a contemporary Cremonese violin by master craftsman, Riccardo Bergonzi.

Josef Spacek has won numerous national and international competitions including 3rd Prize and Young People’s Jury Prize at the Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition in 2008 and the Grand Prize at the Kocian International Violin Competition in 1999. He has performed solo with a number of orchestra including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Prague Philharmonia and the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra

After only four previous competitions the Michael Hill International Violin Competition has become one of the world’s most prestigious events for emerging violinists.

With a total prize pool of around $100,000 and a sponsorship of close $500,000 the competition is one of the largest sponsored single arts events in New Zealand

Arts Culture and Heritage Minister Christopher Finlayson congratulated all contestants noted that the arts prosper in New Zealand due to the support and generosity of New Zealanders such as Michael and Christine Hill, even in tough times.

In awarding the prizes Michael Hill said he looked forward to the day when New Zealanders value the arts as much s they do sport.

All the performances are available for viewing at

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